Many students utilize various resources offered at UCI, and we are proud to share the story of a young man, Alfonso Cruz Ortiz, who took full advantage of programs on campus that played key part in his success. Recently he was appointed into the very prestigious UCI Medical School, and his story is worth sharing.  

So that other students can learn from his path, the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning sat down with Alfonso Cruz Ortiz.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you were involved with at UCI?

I am a first generation Mexican American. I grew up in Long Beach, California and I graduated from the University of California, Irvine in 2014 with a degree in public health sciences. While at UC Irvine I was involved in research at the Department of Pediatrics, I managed two clinics; one in northern Mexico and one in Anaheim. As an undergraduate I also facilitated workshops and conversations on race, social justice, and conflict resolution for the Summer Multicultural Leadership Institute.

The summer before my freshman fall quarter, I applied and was accepted into the FSSP-Summer Bridge Program at UCI. While going through the program, I received the needed edge and head start to hit the ground running. It proved to be so valuable to me, that I ended up coming back to the program to volunteer as a mentor during my sophomore and junior year.

After I graduated from UC Irvine I was offered a position as a clinical research coordinator for my research and I am currently overseeing the close of our five year study on the effects of exercise on the body composition of premature babies. In my free time, I enjoy training in the art of Jiu Jitsu fighting. I have spent the last five years training in Jiu Jitsu and I look forward to competing in local tournaments.

Can you share a bit more about your experience been being a first generation Mexican American?

There is this saying in Spanish. To do something “a panzasos.” And it means to achieve a goal or reach a destination using only your stomach, sheer willpower and sheer determination. As the first member of my family to get an education above a elementary school, it’s be a challenge navigating the system. Applying to college, completing college, and applying to medical school has been a rollercoaster of emotions, adventures, and challenges. But those challenges and rigors have made me resilient applicant, student, and person. I feel unstoppable..

Interestingly, I really think that the Freshman Summer Edge Program was the transition I needed into college. It provided me with the connections and networks needed to be successful. Ultimately, the connections and relationship I made with other students, mentors, and teachers,  helped me get into medical school.

How about the classic and feared interview question. What is your greatest strength?

My greatest strength lays in my ability to adapt to any circumstance or setting that I placed in. My mother was laid off when started undergrad at UC Irvine and at one point I was contributing half of the total income at home. I’m not going to lie. It was hard to balance all my commitments at first, but I was able to adapt and change with my surroundings. I finished undergrad extremely strong. I performed excellently in my classes while juggling a job, research and two clinics.  That being said, I do not think I am a victim. My circumstances have made me a better student and now mentor to others who are following similar paths.

Let’s go back to the Freshman Summer Edge program. You mentioned it a few times, and as an introduction to college, can you elaborate more on how it helped you in your journey?

I am the first person in my family to receive a college education. My parents finished the equivalent of elementary school before they had to begin working. As a result, neither my parents nor family were available to advise me on my schooling or career decisions.

I was conscious of the fact that I would begin undergrad at a disadvantage and I began researching programs/clubs/organizations that would help bridge the gap in knowledge that I had. Not much later I applied for the UC Irvine’s FSSP-Summer Bridge Program and was accepted.

The FSSP-Summer Bridge Program provided me with the opportunity to experience a quarter of classes before the rest of my cohort/class. This experience proved invaluable. While everyone else was adjusting to the new quarter system, I was comfortably excelling in my coursework and seeking out new opportunities to become more involved with campus clubs and organizations. By the time school started I was also already familiar with the campus resources available to students.

Thanks to the FSSP-Summer Bridge Program I also developed an extensive network of mentors and teachers. This network helped propel me into leadership position in various clinics, labs, and organizations.

I would not be where I am today, had I not gone through the FSSP-Summer Bridge Programs. I am eternally grateful to the staff, faculty, and student-mentors that make the program happen every summer.

On June 22nd I will begin taking my first steps toward becoming a physician at the UC Irvine School of Medicine. I am proud to be able to call UC Irvine my home for the next four years! Zot Zot Zot!

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